Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
SIMoN Tools

Species Database

Sebastes nebulosus - China rockfish

China rockfish image

Geographic range:

Alaska to southern California

Key features:

Broad yellow line from third dorsal spine down to lateral line, then back to the tail fin.

Similar species:

Sebastes chrysomelas -- Black and yellow rockfish


bay (rocky shore), exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore

Primary common name:

China rockfish

General grouping:

Bony fishes

ITIS code:


Geographic Range

Range Description:

Kodiak Island, Alaska to Redondo Beach, CA and San Nicholas Island. More common from BC to central California.

Intertidal Height

Lowest intertidal height:

meters OR feet

Highest intertidal height:

meters OR feet

Subtidal Depth Range

Minimum depth:

3 meters OR 10 feet

Maximum depth:

128 meters OR 420 feet


bay (rocky shore), exposed rocky shore, kelp forest, protected rocky shore

Habitat notes:

Occupies rocky reefs and kelp forests.


Relative abundance:


Species Description

General description:

Young of the year (YOY) can appear somewhat like YOY black and yellow rockfish. Mostly yellow with some black blotches and white speckling, the YOY China rockfish already have the distinctive yellow bar that extends down from the third dorsal spine and towards the lateral line. As the fish ages, the bright yellow along the lateral connects with this bar and turns it into a hockey stick, or as some say a "Nike swoosh."

Adult China rockfish are most often black (or blue-black) with numerous white spots and yellow blotches and a broad yellow line from the tail fin to the third dorsal spine, where it heads up through the dorsal fin.

Distinctive features:

The China rockfish has numerous white spots on a black background with a yellow band running along the lateral line and up to the third spine.


To 56 cm
Up to 2.7 kg

Natural History

General natural history:

The China rockfish is an uncommon but striking fish. The contrast of yellow on black and the dense speckling of white dots make this a favorite among divers. Usually you only see one in a given area, since they are solitary and territorial. They will remain in the open only briefly and if approached will quickly swim into a deep crack or crevice and disappear. Adults, which live up to 79 years, are mature by 30 cm TL and females release larvae from January to August.


In the 20th century the most significant predator has been humans and there is still a live-fish fishery.


China rockfish feed on small crustaceans and brittle stars, but eat many other invertebrates including snails, nudibranchs, octopus, bryozoans and hydroids.

Feeding behavior


June - August


Young of the year (YOY) recruit in the summer but little is known about the details.
Click on an image below to view a larger version in the SIMoN Photo Library. You will also be able to view important information on each photo such as photographer, date, caption and more.
Butler, J.L., M.S. Love, and T.E. Laidig. 2012. A guide to the rockfishes, thorny heads, and scorpionfishes of the northeast Pacific. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. 185 p.
Love, M. 1996. Probably more than you want to know about the fishes of the Pacific Coast. Really Big Press, Santa Barbara, CA. 381 p.